Reef Bench

Client: Picassolyceum, Zoetermeer

Location: Zoetermeer

Material: Accoya wood

Year: 2009 

In February 2009, a landscape arose on top of the Picassolyceum secondary school in Zoetermeer. The simple grey tiles on the roof top form the background against which Remy&Veenhuizen created a rising and swelling landscape from wood, for the students to sit, lie down, hang out, eat or read on. It is their own garden, a chill zone for them to relax in, on the school’s premises.

With simple means, Remy&Veenhuizen created a defined area with special significance. The newly built school, which the firm of architects that designed it, Ector Hoogstad Architecten, call ‘a citadel that serves to shield against the ugliness of the surrounding building estate’, has a confined atmosphere. An autonomous village was shaped around a street of light. Remy&Veenhuizen chose to break through this confinement: “We wanted to give the students their own ‘escape area".

This outdoor clubhouse is shaped like stylized dunes, dotted with classic seating elements. Contrary to what one would expect, the rolling shape of the landscape was not created by a computer. Its transparent slatted structure arose by experimenting with spatial models. “This way we keep our freedom of form”, Veenhuizen explains. By stacking their materials in an ingenious way, the designers discovered a method that allowed the slats to move slowly while the construction as a whole still remains solid. Thus, the wooden skeletons look like organic, almost living elements, offering a warm contrast to the school building.

The same goes for the use of wood, which was banned from the inside of the building. The wood chosen is a eco-friendly variant of a light colour: Accoya is a new type of wood. It is a so-called acetylated coniferous wood type, which has the same properties as tropical hardwood. Treating it with acetic anhydride creates a sustainable wood that is almost impermeable to water and that is UV resistant. The enormous wooden structures remain light in terms of weight as well as appeal through this use of Accoya.

To Remy&Veenhuizen every assignment means ‘playing with the information that is available’. Veenhuizen: “Each project creates its own image and consists of a communion of functions”. Because the roof could not be anchored, it was decided to created objects that are not too high, that are heavy enough so that they will not be blown off the roof, that do not cause any acoustic nuisance and that are too large to be moved about. The wooden skeletons are called ‘Reef’. According to the designers, this apperceptive name refers to rhythm and the mountainside. “And for fish the reef is also a place to hang out,’ Remy adds.